Down in Frisco, Texas FC Dallas rushed to a tremendous start. They are second in the West/Shield and are undefeated at home. But there are holes in their resume. The defense is poor. Recent form is awful. Where the Seattle Sounders are second in MLS over their last six games, Dallas is just tied for ninth. If Sigi and the Sounders want to show that their issues are nearly fixed, this is a necessary road win. Saturday's 6 PM match on JOEtv features two teams that know how to score goals, and one that struggles to defend.
Drew from BigSoccer D answers Three Questions.
SaH: It's been nine games since FC Dallas shut their opponent out and have given up ten goals in the past five games. Why is the defense so vulnerable?
BDS: A lot of it comes down to the fact that there are a lot of players playing out of their natural positions. The team really only has a couple true center backs but with Matt Hedges down the team has had to shuffle around players to make things work. The same can be said about the fullback spots as almost everyone that has played at fullback this season for the team has converted to the position at some time or another over the last year or two. The last two games have been better as Zach Loyd and Walker Zimmerman are finally getting comfortable together on the pitch in the middle and Ryan Hollingshead is starting to have some strong play from the right side. The left back situation with Maynor Figueroa is still a concern for most fans as he continues to struggle with attackers with speed and any sort of physical play.
SaH: What have Max Urriti and Maynor Figueroa additions meant to the team? They're the two most played players on the team.
BDS: At first they were real good depth pieces. Both brought a different look to the field that wasn't there in the past, especially with Urruti's energy. Both have had their struggles in recent weeks though. Like I mentioned above, Figueroa has really had issues defending in recent weeks. Just look at the goal Portland scored on Wednesday night as proof as to how teams are targeting him. Urruti on the other hand has been ice cold in terms of scoring for over a month now. He does well at forcing turnovers but right now he isn't looking like the guy that FCD hoped would turn into a 10-15 goal a year type scorer.
SaH: Both teams tend to settle for a lot of shots from distance. When Dallas struggles to get the ball in the 18, what's the cause?
BDS: A lot of the offensive struggles come down to time on the ball and how the team plays in the middle of the field. When FCD is able to spread teams out onto the wings with the speed of Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios, good things always happen inside the penalty box for everyone else. If those two aren't getting the service from the middle of the field out of Mauro Diaz or guys like Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo or Victor Ulloa, then the offense dries up in a hurry.
Chris Seitz, Atiba Harris, Zach Loyd, Walker Zimmerman, Ryan Hollingshead, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios, Tesho Akindele
BDS: After the slow start to the season the Sounders are starting to round into decent form here, what has been the biggest change over the last few weeks that has lead to some good results?
SaH: While all the excitement is from Morris, we'll get to that, the work and improvements are related to the injection of Erik Friberg into the starting lineup. Friberg is a fairly classic number eight. He reads matches well in attack or defense, can maintain the tempo or push it, and has a good long ball that changes the point of the attack. Erik isn't the solution to the lack of creativity on the squad, but he certainly reduces the impact of not having a pure #10.
BDS: Two words that seemed to be all over the internet this year have been Jordan Morris. What has he done to live up to the hype so far outside of his current scoring streak?
SaH: We shouldn't just gloss over the scoring streak. Tying an MLS rookie record four straight matches with a goal is impressive. He's also already tied the Sounders rookie record for goals in a season. Those are just raw numbers though. How Morris is doing it bears a look. More often he's the center forward. Seattle isn't using him as a the target man too often, but his hold-up play is decent. What's been best is getting the proper timing as to when to feed him on the run. He's combination of speed, strength and a punishing right foot is hard for more CBs and keepers to deal with, when timing is right. He can make those runs when he's playing as a right wing or from the middle. Clint Dempsey is getting better at seeking those out.
BDS: FC Dallas relies on their speedy wingers on the counter attack a lot, what will Seattle need to do to contain that speed this Saturday?
SaH: On Seattle's right Tyrone Mears will probably sit back a bit more than usual. He typically gets forward, but his crossing isn't great and Seattle can offer more of an attacking threat from the left. With Joevin Jones forward a bunch it lets Chad Marshall shade to the left preventing penetration into the area. It also can force Castillo to track back, at least that is the hope. Generally the Sounders are going to be OK with allowing a team to get deep penetration on the flanks, because it's so unlikely for crosses to be effective against Brad Evans and Marshall. Cut back passes have to beat Osvaldo Alonso and Evans. It's a sound theory, and sometimes it work.
Projected lineup: 4-2-1-3 with Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg; Clint Dempsey; Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris, Herculez Gomez